Love at Thirty-two Degrees by Katherine Larson

                               I
Today I dissected a squid,
the late acacia tossing its pollen
across the black of the lab bench.
In a few months the maples
will be bleeding. That was the thing:
there was no blood
only textures of gills creased like satin,
suction cups as planets in rows. Be careful

not to cut your finger, he says. But I’m thinking
of fingertips on my lover’s neck
last June. Amazing, hearts.
This brachial heart. After class,
I stole one from the formaldehyde
& watched it bloom in my bathroom sink
between cubes of ice.
                               II
Last night I threw my lab coat in the fire
& drove all night through the Arizona desert
with a thermos full of silver tequila.
It was the last of what we bought
on our way back from Guadalajara—
desert wind in the mouth, your mother’s
beat-up Honda, agaves
twisting up from the soil
like the limbs of cephalopods.
Outside of Tucson, saguaros so lovely
considering the cold, & the fact that you
weren’t there to warm me.
Suddenly drunk I was shouting that I wanted to see the stars
as my ancestors used to see them—
to see the godawful blue as Aurvandil’s frostbitten toe.
                               III
Then, there is the astronomer’s wife
ascending stairs to her bed.
The astronomer gazes out,
one eye at a time,
to a sky that expands
even as it falls apart
like a paper boat dissolving in bilge.
Furious, fuming stars.
When his migraine builds &
lodges its dark anchor behind
the eyes, he fastens the wooden buttons
of his jacket, & walks
outside with a flashlight
to keep company with the barn owl
who stares back at him with eyes
that are no greater or less than
a spiral galaxy.
The snow outside
is white & quiet
as a woman’s slip
against cracked floorboards.
So he walks to the house
inflamed by moonlight, & slips
into the bed with his wife
her hair & arms all
in disarray
like fish confused by waves.
                               IV
Science—
beyond pheromones, hormones, aesthetics of bone,
every time I make love for love’s sake alone,
I betray you.
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